Segui writes off M's
Seattle Times staff reporter
ARLINGTON, Texas - After two days of obvious outcomes, the Mariners and Rangers put together a game John Grisham could have scripted, a 7-6 Texas victory yesterday with more plot twists near the end than a dime novel.
In the hero's role was the familiar person of David Segui, who was having a good game until the ninth inning, when his day first went bad, then beautiful.
The former Mariner first baseman drove in three runs early, including two in the three-run fifth when the Rangers took a 5-2 lead. But all seemed out the window in the top of the ninth when Royce Clayton's poor throw bobbled off Segui's golden glove as Seattle scored an unearned run to complete what appeared to be a smashing comeback to a 6-5 lead.
But he who smashes last often smashes better. In the bottom of the ninth, Segui hit a one-out, two-run homer off Kazuhiro Sasaki, the closer's second mistake of the inning, to send the Mariners on a long and unhappy flight to Oakland.
"A tough loss," Mariner designated hitter Edgar Martinez said. "But we'll come back again tomorrow. We lost, but we showed a lot before we lost."
It might have been no worse than a tie, pointed out Mariner Manager Lou Piniella, if Sasaki had not made his first mistake on Rafael Palmeiro's soft one-out liner to the right side.
Palmeiro got a single on it despite an amazing play by second baseman Mark McLemore, who got to the low flare with a dash and dive, only to have it pop free as he fell to earth.
"I was surprised myself to reach that ball. I didn't think I had a chance," he said. "I think Sasaki didn't think I'd get to it, either."
This was confirmed by Sasaki, who never moved to cover first.
"If he (Sasaki) covers on McLemore's play," Piniella said pointedly, "you still get an out because Palmeiro can't run."
Two pitches later, with Kirkland native Tom Evans pinch-running at first, Sasaki hung a fastball to Segui, who yanked it out to right field to win the game.
"It feels bad to let the team down," Sasaki said in a somber Seattle clubhouse. "I did not think it was a pitch he would hit out, maybe only hit toward right-center field."
But it was a fastball, and therein lay the problem. Sasaki had trouble with his internationally-known forkball. When he relieved Arthur Rhodes, who had picked up for starter Aaron Sele to open the eighth, he walked pinch-hitter Chad Curtis to load the bases.
During Curtis' at-bat, catcher Dan Wilson made a great play on an errant pitch by Sasaki to prevent a run from scoring.
Pitching coach Bryan Price went to the mound and told Sasaki, the pitcher said, to "relax."
"He wanted to know if there was anything wrong, because my split (forkball) was not sharp," Sasaki said. "Some of them were great, some no good, nothing in-between."
Sasaki fanned Luis Alicea to end the inning. All that was left was for the Mariners to finish off the comeback they had started with Jay Buhner's RBI double to make it 5-3 in the sixth.
In the eighth, Alex Rodriguez, whose 10th homer had provided a 2-1 lead in the fourth, had led off with a single off the leg of reliever Tim Crabtree. Martinez flied out on a ball he just missed hitting out. John Olerud singled before Buhner flied out on a ball he just missed hitting out.
That left it up to David Bell, who avoided being replaced by hitting the ball hard for two days now. On a 2-2 pitch, Bell drove a double to right-center to tie it at 5-5.
McLemore batted for Carlos Guillen and opened the ninth against Ranger closer John Wetteland with a single. Mike Cameron bunted him over, then Stan Javier walked, which brought Rodriguez up for the first time with runners on. And on a 3-2 count, they were running when Rodriguez swung at what was ball four, up, and missed.
Martinez, whose homer off the right-field foul pole tied the score 1-1 in the second, grounded a 2-2 pitch to short. Clayton stumbled as he fielded the ball and threw low to first, where Segui, one of the slickest first sackers in history, could not come up with the tricky hop as McLemore scored the lead run.
"With no one on, I'd try to pick that ball," Segui said. "With runners on second and third, I'm trying to catch it but making sure it stays in front of me or two runs might score. In any event, I expect to make that play."
With such a stroke of fortune - Martinez can barely run - momentum was all for Seattle.
"I know how a closer feels," Clayton said. "Your team builds a lead and you lose it with one mistake. But David picked me up; that's what a team is about."
Segui had watched Sasaki throw his forkball and wanted no part of it.
"I wasn't about to take a fastball for a strike," he said. "When I saw one coming, I swung. I hit it good, so I don't understand when Sasaki says he was surprised I hit it out."
He was having no talk of a big game, either.
"It's over," Segui said. "All that counts now is tomorrow."
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